What’s your perfect first date?” the producers asked.
The question flummoxed Longhorns’ football coach Jake Swartwood — the thought had never crossed his mind.
“An ATV cruise,” he finally answered. For the uninitiated — this involves rounding up a bunch of friends, riding quads to some body of water and hanging out, he said.
Not your typical dinner and a movie response.
But Swartwood, 28, isn’t your typical bachelor. So it isn’t any surprise he would sign up to try dating on national television in hopes of finding Miss Right or at least Miss Right Now.
Recently, Swartwood was a finalist in a reality dating show. Although shows like “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” have proved wildly successful ratings-wise, they have produced few lasting relationships.
Reportedly looking for a more “real” dating experience, producers set out to find a country guy living in a small town.
Swartwood fit the bill. He hunts squirrels for fun, drives a pickup, fly-fishes and likes to sit around a bonfire with friends most Friday nights.
If he had been selected, Swartwood would have broken the buff-California bachelor typecast.
But alas, producers decided to go with someone else.
No problem, says Swartwood: He is just happy for the experience.
It all started several weeks ago when producers set out to find a worthy bachelor. When a friend of a friend asked if they knew any good-looking single men, Swartwood’s name was dropped.
Days later, Swartwood said he got a call from producers. They talked to him about growing up in Payson, being a special education elementary teacher and coaching football.
After a couple more interviews, Swartwood said he still wasn’t sure what the show involved — some kind of reality dating “Bachelor” spin-off.
Then rather quickly, a production crew arrived in town for more interviews.
From the small porch of his yellow home in Round Valley, the crew filmed yet another interview. “They kept asking the same questions over and over again,” he said.
That evening, they asked Swartwood to set up a dinner with his parents and friends, which they would film.
Swartwood’s parents, former Payson mayor Craig Swartwood and Linda, a nurse, were open to the process, he said. Both are by nature “really laid back” and thought of the whole shebang as a cool experience for him.
Swartwood said he is not one to pass up an opportunity. He was a graduate assistant coach at Dakota State University last year, worked as a white water river guide at the Grand Canyon this summer and jumped at the chance to coach varsity football in Payson — his alma mater.
“This opportunity was given to me and I thought it would be silly not to go for it,” he said. “I honestly thought nothing would come of it.”
Besides his family and friends, the camera crew also filmed Swartwood at practice.
When the players asked Swartwood why the crew was there, Swartwood explained they were looking at using him for a show about a small-town guy.
If chosen, the practice video may show up in the pilot and first episode.
“They were all stoked,” he said. “We had probably our best practice of the year.”
Swartwood said he was careful how the crew depicted the team, the town, his family and himself. He said he did not want to come off as some overconfident bachelor with no morals. And if chosen, he wasn’t going to act like most reality contestants, making out and sleeping around on camera.
“I told them honestly that I wouldn’t fall in love with some girl in two months,” he said. “I know myself. So it wasn’t about the girls really.”
If not for love, then why do it?
“The main reason was, really with coaching football and stuff, I feel like I have the opportunity to mold people’s lives and kind of give leadership to kids that don’t have leadership and I thought that it would be a great chance to move our football program and our community forward,” he said. “I thought it would be a chance to model what I want to instill in my kids.”
“I talked to my pastor about it and I told him I didn’t want to be painted in a light, I didn’t want to look like I was sleeping with all these girls,” he said.
The biggest hitch for Swartwood, however, was the time filming would take away from football and work. He said he would have had to leave school for three weeks, a deal breaker.
Swartwood is hopeful he may still be chosen if it does not work out with the person they originally choose.
If they do, Swartwood said he wouldn’t let it go to his head.
And he still thinks an outdoor excursion with friends would make the ideal first date.
“That is real life and that is really who I am so why would I give them anything like, I would take them on top of the Rim and we would go drink wine,” he laughed. “That is not me.”